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Wolf introduction narrowly approved; urban vote decides for rural Colorado

DENVER–Proposition 114, creating a new statute that requires the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to undertake introducing as many as 500 gray wolves into western Colorado, and orders the state legislature to find the money to fund both the program and livestock depredation claims caused by wolves, has apparently been approved by a narrow margin of less than 1%.

As of Thursday night there are 1,513,237 votes in favor and 1,487,151 against for a difference of 26,086 votes, or a 0.982% margin in favor of the initiative.

The counts are not final, and according to the Secretary of State’s election results website, post-election day tabulations are still in progress, no final tabulations are complete and no counties have certified the results.

Urban counties, including Denver, El Paso, Boulder, Larimer, Jefferson, Broomfield, Adams, and Arapahoe County provided the bulk of yes votes.

The rest of the counties, with the exception of traditional Democrat strongholds including Summit, Pitkin, San Miguel, San Juan and La Plata, voted against the reintroduction.  As the Grand Junction ABC affiliate reports, roughly 62% of Western Slope voters said no to the measure, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Front Range voter advantage.

Counties must complete tabulation of all ballots by November 13 and submit the official vote abstract no later than November 25.

Only if the difference between yes and no votes is 0.5% or less will the Secretary of State order a mandatory recount.

Proponents were elated at the victory.

In a press release, Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity said, “This is a great victory for wolves coming on the heels of Trump’s illegal action to remove federal protection, and it will help restore the natural balance in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.”

Opponents and wildlife experts strongly disagree.

“We’re trapping them in their ecosystems up in Canada, where they can roam millions of acres never seeing a human being, and we’re dropping them into a state of six million people,” said Ted Harvey, campaign director for Stop the Wolf PAC. “I guarantee you that there’s going to be conflict, whether it’s with cars, trucks, or ranchers protecting their property. I can assure you who’s going to win that conflict, and it won’t be the wolves.”

Harvey is concerned with the hypocrisy of city dwellers driving wolf introduction when they think they are immune from the consequences of doing so. Harvey says people on the east side of the Continental Divide will inevitably suffer from those unintended consequences.

“It is unfair to our Western Slope neighbors to be dropping a very aggressive pack hunter, an apex predator, into that backyard,” said Harvey. “Pretty soon they’re going to be in the neighborhoods of the families on the Front Range who thought it would be fun to be dropping wolves on their neighbors, [but] not thinking about the impact that it’s going to have on their own families when those wolves come across the Continental Divide.”

Harvey also says aside from the ongoing administrative costs, which have never been calculated, the potential economic costs of introduction are huge but were never part of the pro-wolf rhetoric. He predicts disaster for Colorado’s wildlife and hunting economy when up to 500 wolves decimate elk and deer herds that help generate the more than $2.8 billion in annual hunting and fishing economic activity in Colorado.

An informational package prepared by the Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence at the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University in Fort Collins says, “The USFWS estimated that, in 2015, almost $6.5 million was spent on managing wolves by state, federal, and tribal agencies in a region composed of northern Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, the Idaho panhandle, Washington and Oregon.”

Rick Enstrom, former Colorado State Wildlife Commissioner from 2000 to 2008  told Complete Colorado Thursday, “One only needs to examine the voting map to determine that the urban centers have little regard for rural Colorado and the impacts of introduction. The losers here are the hunters and fishermen that foot the bill. And, of course, the political football; the wolf.”

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